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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Are You "Kibbing"?

We all know what meatloaf is but do we all know about the Middle Eastern specialty, baked kibbe?  Baked kibbe is a lot like a meatloaf but is so much more fragrant and delicious than you could ever imagine.  This is not your mother's meatloaf.

I first had baked kibbe several years ago in a Middle Eastern restaurant here in Pittsburgh.   I really enjoyed it but didn't think of it again until recently when I saw this recipe for Baked Lebanese Kibbe in the New York Times.    This version called for ground lamb, bulgar wheat, cumin and lots of onion.  Simple enough.

This kibbe was very easy to make and was just as fragrant as I remembered.  Instead of it being loaf shaped, this recipe baked up into a flat cake smothered in caramelized onions and toasted pine nuts.  Delicious!  The only seasonings I used were cumin, salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne but it was so incredibly flavorful that I could have sworn that it had a spice shelf full of flavorings in it.

I served the kibbe with a simple salad and couscous.  It was a perfect dinner.  No kibbing.

Recipe:  Lebanese Baked Kibbe
(New York Times, September 21, 2011_


1 pound lamb shoulder, ground fine

1/4 cup grated onion
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground, or 1 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for oiling the pan
2 cups sliced onions, 1/4-inch thick
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
Greek-style yogurt, for serving.


Rinse the bulgur well, then cover with cold water and soak for 20 minutes. Drain well.

Put the drained bulgur, lamb, grated onion, cumin and cayenne in a large mixing bowl. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Mix well with your hands to distribute the seasoning. With a wooden spoon, beat in about 1/2 cup ice water. The mixture should be smooth and soft.

Heat the olive oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and fry gently, stirring occasionally, until they soften, about 5 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Raise the heat and add 1/4 cup of the lamb mixture. Continue frying, allowing the meat to get crumbly and the onions to brown nicely, another 10 minutes or so. Stir in the pine nuts and taste. Let cool to room temperature.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a shallow 9-by-13-inch baking dish, then press half the remaining lamb mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan. Spread half the onion-pine nut mixture over the meat. Add the rest of the meat to the pan, patting and pressing it with wet hands to make a smooth top. If desired, score the top with a sharp paring knife to make a traditional diamond pattern at least 1/2-inch deep.

Bake uncovered for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden. Spread with the remaining onion-pine nut mixture. Serve warm, at room temperature or cool, with a dollop of yogurt.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings.

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